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‘This sort of stuff shouldn’t be happening’

University is the largest donor for nonprofit that provides relief for families of terminally ill children.

March 24, 2010|By Tom Ragan

More than just a hockey game will take place at Staples Center this weekend between the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars.

In a special pre-game ceremony Saturday, the University of Phoenix will hand over nearly $45,000 to Kristie’s Foundation, a nonprofit group whose mission is to house terminally ill children. The founder, Laurie Kotas, is an Orange County resident.

“I’m tickled pink,” said Kotas, a Huntington Beach resident who lived in Newport Beach for six years. “There’s a huge gap in caring for children who are dying. This donation is going to help tremendously to fill that gap.”

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Kotas said she plans to use the money to buy a house in the Los Angeles area, where proper pain medication would be dispensed for dying children. Currently patients have to go to a hospital or often are given inadequate care inside their own homes.

The University of Phoenix, with 17,000 students and 14 Southern California locations — including its Costa Mesa Learning Center — so far has donated $139,000 to Kristie’s Foundation, becoming the largest monetary donor to date, according to the university.

The idea of caring for sick children came to Kotas after her 7-year-old daughter, Kristie, died from leukemia in 1985.

“She died in horrible pain. There’s no excuse for it, and this sort of stuff shouldn’t be happening. But it still is,” Kotas said, adding that there were no hospices or hospice services at the time.

“We were sent home with morphine and shots to give her and that was it,” Kotas said. “And the morphine wasn’t keeping the pain at bay. It was horrible to watch your child suffer and to be left on their own.”

Although Kristie died more than 25 years ago, it wasn’t until 2003 that Kotas established her own foundation, an idea that came to her after having worked for several children’s charities in Arizona and Orange County, and learning the ropes and the ins and outs of fundraising.

Since Kristie’s Foundation was established, Kotas has helped more than 800 families in Los Angeles and Orange counties and has assisted more than 100 families each year with household expenses, such as groceries, gas, rent, utilizes and personal care needs, including diapers and prescription medications.

But the next and latest step is the biggest of all: setting up a hospice for the children, Kotas said, adding that it should be opened within four months in Los Angeles.


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